Phantom of the Opera:  Farewell!

By Shlomo Maital  

     Phantom of the Opera, the long-running Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber, will close on Sunday (April 16).  It opened 35 years ago, in 1988, in New York’s West End theater The Majestic, and is the 2nd longest running West end musical, after Les Miserables.   Worldwide, it made $6 billion in revenues, and grossed $1 billion on Broadway alone.

    As a kid in Regina, Saskatchewan, I recall seeing the 1943 movie Phantom of the Opera, first to be filmed (by Universal) in Technicolor.  It reused the old Opera Garnier interior set created for the 1925 film.  It was scary – and wonderful. And memorable. 

     How was it born?  Composer Andrew Lloyd Weber wandered into an used-book bookstore, came across the old 1910 novel by Gaston Leroux, and saw possibilities in the story of Christsine Daaé, the beautiful soprano who becomes the obsession of the masked genius living in the subterranean labyrinth beneath the Paris Opéra.

   The Phantom of the Opera musical took 125 people (cast and crew) to stage it.  And famously, it had its chandelier, which shot from the stage to the center of the theatre and came crashing down at the climax of Act I. (The crash was not preserved, as the years went by).

     Some of the numbers:  It was the most profitable entertainment event, until The Lion King surpassed it in 2014.  It has been seen by over 140 million people in 183 cities across 41 countries.

     What is its appeal?  Simply – a great, engrossing, unique, original story.  With wonderful music.

     Bye, Phantom!  You made a lot of people happy – and probably rescued Broadway, in the doldrums in the 1980’s as New York suffered from filth and crime.  There are 41 theaters now and largely, doing well.